I was recently in contact with Michael Bonanno, a player agent with Oak Sports Management (www.oaksportsmanagement.com). We had the opportunity to interview two of his clients who are in the Jay's farm system, Randy Schwartz and Brad McElroy, both Ontario born players.
Today we have questions and answers with Randy Schwartz.
Randy was born in King City, Ontario. He played for Team Canada in high school, then accepted a baseball scholarship to High Point-Division 1 in North Carolina. There he set the career record for hits with 255. As a senior he made the Big South Conference Presidential Honor Roll, was All-Big South Second Team All-Star and led his team in hits (69, doubles (16), home runs (9), runs (35) total bases (114), slugging (.533) and OBP (.400). He made was named to the 2008 All-Canadian Team by the Canadian Baseball Network.
The Jays signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He got into 10 games at Auburn last year, before breaking his foot and missing the rest of the season. In those 10 games he hit 4 home runs and a triple and played third base. This spring he had another injury, an inflamed disk in his back. He has been working out in extending spring training and should be joining the Lansing or Auburn team in the next few days.
He is a big guy 6'5", 240, with power.
Here it is, Randy's answers are in bold. Hugo supplied the questions:
Having grown up in Ontario, how much of an effort did you have to make to pursue baseball as opposed to other sports that other athletically inclined kids might have pursued? What other careers did you consider other than baseball?
I always just knew baseball growing up, it wasn't until I was school aged that I really understood that baseball wasn't the number one sport to kids my age. So in those formative years before grade school I just fell in love with baseball. I remember a time when I used to get made fun of for playing baseball in school, and it drove me to ask my mom if I could start playing hockey too, they gave me the option of baseball or hockey and said whichever I picked would be the one they would commit to, as we really couldn't afford both. My mom was pretty happy about my choice being baseball considering she's not a huge fan of winter driving.
In high school I guess the biggest issue was that in order to get the best coaching/training possible we would need to drive a few hours anywhere from Pickering to Waterloo and everywhere in between so that plus having to workout indoors for so much more of the year were the two biggest challenges.
I've got my degree in Physical Education and am a certified teacher in North Carolina so that was the other career I've considered. Regardless of how baseball ends for me, whether it be in 15 years or 15 days I think I will still teach and coach high school baseball and basketball at the very least, I just don't know if that will be home in Ontario or somewhere in the States.
You only got into 10 games for Auburn last year due to horrible luck when you broke your foot sliding into third base. How frustrating is it to be shelved due to a freak injury and how do your keep your head level and not try to overdo it when you are rehabbing and eventually start playing again?
It was pretty frustrating at first but I just trust and know that I was exactly where I was supposed to be the whole time. When I first broke my foot I was pretty upset but it was a huge opportunity for me to grow in some ways that I hadn't yet, and so I actually had a lot more peace about it than you would expect. I know that everything will work out for my good as long as I keep a grateful attitude about all things and work as hard and smart as I can within my own responsibility, I really don't believe in luck.
As far as keeping your head level you just have to trust the process more than anything, trust that you're in the right hands with your rehab, and trust that your body will get back when it's ready and when it's time.
What are your goals for yourself this season?
I've been so focused on getting healthy I haven't had much time to set personal goals as of yet, I think an obvious one would be to remain healthy through the year, but obviously I'm looking to perform and move up. I just want to hit the ball hard as often as possible, which in my head is every time. I've always driven myself pretty hard, I'm never satisfied with my performance. I always feel like I could have hit a ball harder, farther, made a better play, sometimes it may be a little hard to understand, like how could you not be satisfied with a 4-4 night, but it's what has got me this far and that determination I think has always separated me from my peers.
What were some of the biggest difference playing at Auburn last year opposed to college ball?
I think in pro ball in general the game is faster, there's a lot more guys with speed, more triples, more legitimate stolen bases. But honestly it's just more fun, all you have to think about is playing ball, especially since I have my degree I can really let loose and approach the game with a clear mind. Although it's cutthroat it's not do or die, I know I'll be fine regardless of what happens on any given night. I know where my hope lies. I absolutely love baseball, and playing for the Jays is a childhood dream come true, I'm just trying to keep that in perspective and I hope that when people come to see me play they get a sense of how much fun I'm having, even if I look a little upset after a strikeout.
What do you work on more, hitting or fielding?
I guess both really, but I admittedly spend more time mentally on hitting. I've really learned a good amount about fielding with the Blue Jays, this year when Encarnacion was down here I got to spend some time taking grounders with him and working on a few things I never really worked on before. I have this very hard-nosed, goalie mentality at third and so I always end up trying to body everything up when I could read the hop a little better, take a drop step and just catch it, that's the biggest change I've been working on. Hitting is a constant process, I'm really working to expand the area of the strike zone that I feel confident to drive the ball in hitters' counts right now, but that's always what you're trying to do I guess.
King City is a really pretty town right on the Go Train line. How often did you come to Toronto check out Jays' games growing up?
In high school a few King City teammates and I used to take the subway down from the Yorkdale mall and buy some cheap tickets about as high up as you could get. We'd spend the rest of the game moving closer and closer to field level and see how far we could get before we got kicked back up to the 500 level. But mostly all of my family were Jays fans, it's pretty safe to say they all are now, so we went a few times a year. I remember watching the World Series games on TV and going crazy jumping up and down both times right along with Joe Carter, I've always loved watching the Jays whether it be in person, on TV, or hopefully one day playing alongside me.
Thanks for this Randy, great answers, best of luck this season. I'm looking forward to following your progress. It's easy to cheer for a player that was a fan of the Jays too.